Unexpected Character


"I get a lot of new character requests from all over the world, and there are quite an array of Nintendo characters. But I can say, pretty much no one imagined this character would join the battle."
Masahiro Sakurai on the inclusion of Wii Fit Trainer, Super Smash Bros.

Normally when time comes for a sequel or adaptation of a franchise, you can have a pretty good idea of who to expect in the returning cast. The Hero, The Lancer, the Ensemble Darkhorse... no one is surprised by their return. However, creators may want to shake things up and include less obvious characters. They could be a One-Scene Wonder, someone who had succumbed to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, or simply a Living Prop, or even someone from outside the franchise.

In video games, particularly Mascot Fighters, Kart Racers, and other Massive Multiplayer Crossovers, this can also include characters from games that were obscure or never left their home country, or games whose genre puts them outside that game's purview. Ironically common examples of the latter two include characters from a nonviolent game (or with a nonviolent role in the game) appearing as combatants, or a pilot/driver stepping out of their machine and showing they're just as competent on foot, if not moreso. Audience members have this type of reaction to most Guest Fighters, by nature of coming from separate works and franchises.

Sometimes these character choices are praised, bringing in a previously unknown character to recent audiences, but other times the choice can be seen as a gimmick to increase sales. In video games, these characters are also sometimes accused of "stealing" a character slot, especially if a more important or popular character is missing from the game. Very often, it can increase interest if not sales in the unexpected addition, which is actually pretty sound business sense.

The trope most closely tied to the Unexpected Character reaction is the Genre Refugee, a character that is from a genre that is completely different from the genre of the show. Genre Refugees need not be pre-existing characters, however, and may not shock an audience depending on what the show builds to before the Refugee shows up. Still, if a show is strongly formulaic fantasy series, seeing The Count of Monte Cristo show up will always be a shock.

See also Hero of Another Story.

Remember, Examples Are Not Recent.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece:
    • No one had expected Robin to join the Straw Hats. Granted, she had helped Luffy and betrayed Crocodile, but it made her more of a wild card, and after the battle, she had disappeared. Then, just as the crew leaves Alabasta, Robin arrives from within their ship and Luffy, having rescued Robin from certain death, accepts her offer to join them. Added to that is that throughout the entire Baroque Works arc, Vivi had been played up as the potential next member of the Straw Hats, until she turned down the offer to stay behind and rebuild Alabasta right before Robin joined.
    • Most people wrote Bellamy out as dead, and it's not hard to see why, seeing as his boss is Doflamingo and he went and pissed the guy off by losing to Luffy. Come chapter 704, not only is he still alive and still under Doflamingo's employment, he's also a participant in the tournament for the Mera Mera no Mi. Also, the appearance of Jesus Burgess was likewise something nobody could have seen coming. Later on, the supposedly long-dead Sabo has shown up.
  • Pokémon:
    • After the Advanced Generation series ended, it was general consensus that Wallace, Gym Leader in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire and Champion in Emerald, was another addition to the many game characters that got Adapted Out in the anime. To everyone's surprise, he shows up in the middle of the Diamond and Pearl series as part of Dawn's story, hosting a special Pokémon Coordinator tournament that bears his name.
    • The Best Wishes series has Clair from Pokémon Gold and Silver showing up. Sure, she and the majority of the Generation I-IV Gym Leaders show up at the Pokémon World Tournament in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, but that's more an optional encounter.
    • Ash had Charizard rejoining his team, and not just for a big match like his previous returns, sticking around for the rest of the Best Wishes series. A couple of the other Pokémon Ash has captured could also qualify. For example, no one was expecting him to catch Muk, since in its debut, it actually received the least amount of focus out of all the Pokémon that appeared in that episode, only appearing briefly in a couple of scenes.
    • The Mewtwo from Genesect and the Legend Awakened is something of a double whammy — few were expecting Mewtwo to return, but no one was expecting it to be a different individual altogether, due to the backstory (and the logistics thereof) of the first one. To quite a lot of fans, this was far from a pleasant surprise as a result.
    • Clement's fourth Pokémon is Luxio — something no one saw coming. First off, it's a 'Mon from a generation not being actively promoted, and secondly, it's not even in the Kalos Dex (all three of them!).
    • Alain's full team reveal was also a case of this: his team is made up mostly of menacing- and tough-looking Pokemon like Tyranitar and Bisharp... and a Male Unfeazant. Similarly, May's rival Harley turns out to have, along with his team of sinister and threatening Pokemon, a Wigglytuff.
    • As one of the most popular Pokemon in the S/M, many assumed Ash would get a Rockruff. He did, but no one was expecting he'd get Kukui's Rockruff.
  • Pokémon Generations does this a couple of times, probably due to its format, but none of them can quite top the bombshell that appears at the end of episode 15—it takes place during the events of Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 and involves N's confrontation with his father, Ghetsis. Just when it looks like N is toast, an attack appears out of nowhere to save him. He then turns around to see Hilbert, the previous game's player character who had been Put on a Bus at the time of the second game's events. It's also this because most fanworks use Hilda, the female protagonist, as the main character yet Generations instead used Hilbert.
  • Gundam Build Fighters:
  • Gundam Build Fighters Try continues this trend with the Winning Gundam revealed to be a modified Captain Gundam. And also, Domon Kasshu.
  • Continuing the Gundam examples, the manga MSV-R: The Return of Johnny Ridden features the return of yet another major character, namely Yazan "I'm Gonna Violate You" Gable.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, Bakura, after having been left out of every filler anime arc, spinoff manga, miniseries, and movie ever, has a role in the film. Even the official website was surprised.
    In addition to Yugi and Kaiba you will be seeing a lot of familiar faces on-screen – characters previewed included Jonouchi, Honda, Anzu, and even Bakura.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V introducing alternate universe versions of Jack Atlas and Crow Hogan opened the floodgates of speculation on which other characters from past series would be brought back over the course of the show. The news that Kaito Tenjo from ZEXAL would be appearing in the Xyz Dimension arc was not entirely unexpected by the fandom, but the presences of Edo Phoenix and Asuka Tenjoin from GX certainly were, especially the latter due to their Out of Focus status in their home series.
  • Dragon Ball Super:
    • Who expected to see Captain Ginyu return in Super's adaptation of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’?
    • Nobody would have expected to see Future Mai alive in Future Trunks' timeline, given that there was no foreshadowing of it within the series, and it was only spoiled by marketing.
    • Or who thought that Android 17 would be a team member for Universe 7 in the Tournament of Power? And absolutely nobody expected, of all people, Frieza to end up joining said team as a fill-in member.
  • Danganronpa 3 has Chiaki Nanami show up as one of the main characters, catching many off-guard, seeing as in the second game she was an AI who wasn't even hinted at being a real person.
    • It even manages to do this with a character from the same show, with the Side:Future character Chisa Yukizome showing up in Side:Despair as a teacher.
  • Charlotte's reappearance in Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion as Mami's pet/familiar was the last thing anyone expected. After all, she killed and ate Mami in the series and died shortly afterward. This was almost certainly a reference to the fandom's Crack Pairing of Mami and Charlotte, but it was still unexpected because no one thought the creators would incorporate something so bizarre into the official production.
  • The final episode of Maho Girls Precure surprised everyone with an Early-Bird Cameo of Kira Kira Precure A La Mode's Ichika Usami/Cure Whip in an honest-to-God canonical crossover.
  • Space Patrol Luluco is a Milestone Celebration for Studio Trigger. At first, it just seemed to have subtle nods at their various shows. Then, the protagonists wound up on a planet of Life Fibers. Then they met Suzy the witch. And all of this culminates in the reveal that the whole series has been an Origin Story for Miss Trigger/Trigger-chan, one of the company's mascots.
    • A minor example, but while the first episode mentions in passing that Luluco's mom left, there was no real expectation that she was going to come back. Or be a badass, Stripperific Space Pirate queen.
  • Tiger Mask W had multiple Legacy Characters, especially from Tiger's Den, but two caught everyone by surprise: Mr. Question due his sudden appearance at the GWM World Maskmen Championship (followed by crushing a Tiger's Den wrestler as befitting of someone bearing that name), and, in the last episode, Mr. No because... Well, look at the original...

    Comic Books 
  • The New 52 revival of Justice League International has Godiva, a very minor DC superheroine mostly remembered for being in the Global Guardians, a really minor DC superteam.
  • Age of Ultron, a Red Skies Crossover, migrates Angela, a Neil Gaiman exclusive character, who was previously part of the Spawn supporting cast, into the Marvel Universe.
  • Trinity War: Nobody expected the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3 to show up as the series' ultimate villains.
  • Reign of the Supermen: Superman, ironically, is this. The story was about four mysterious figures claiming to be Superman returned from the dead except, not really and yet, when the Cyborg Superman turned out to be the villain of the piece, the real Superman emerged from the Fortress without his powers and saved the day. As though a god-like figure was in the machine.
  • Avengers Undercover managed to shock Runaways fans with the sudden resurrection of Alex Wilder.
  • Fans of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog were taken off-guard learning that Breezie the Hedgehog, a character from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, was going to make her debut in issue #268, which began an adaptation of Sonic the Fighters. The appearance of Dummied Out character Honey the Cat in the same storyline? Not so much.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Unite managed to surprise fans by revealing not only Sticks the Badger of Sonic Boom and Mega Man X, but also a number of various SEGA and Capcom video game franchises. One of them being Street Fighter, which has been licensed to UDON for over a decade.
  • The Eleventh Doctor Doctor Who (Titan) comics reintroduced '90s Anti-Hero Abslom Daak from the Doctor Who Magazine comics. A doubly unexpected character as he hadn't been used for many years, and also because he came from a completely different Doctor Who Expanded Universe continuity with different rightsholders.
  • It's safe to say that, before the leaks, no one expected Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen to appear in DC Rebirth.
    • A later Rebirth era event, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, has this to a lesser extent. While nowhere near as unexpected as Manhattan, the appearance of Legion villain Emerald Empress was rather unexpected, given that she is not one prone to being the problem of 20/21st century heroes in their home eras.
  • Pathfinder: Worldscape is a Massive Multiplayer Crossover event featuring several properties licensed by Dynamite Entertainment yet two characters from the public domain characters with no relation to these properties will play a big part in the story: Fantomah and Thun'Da, both of which are extremely obscure comic book characters from the 40s and 50s respectively that few people would be aware of, let alone expect to be featured in a event like this.
  • G.I. Joe:
    • G.I. Joe (2016) stars such heroes as Roadblock, Scarlett, Snake Eyes... and Skywarp. Yes, a villain from an entirely different franchise. It Makes Sense in Context; during Revolution, the team rescued him from a government holding facility, and he's working with them until they can restore his teleportation powers.
    • Late in the run of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, the Joe team's Ninja Force encountered a group of Red Ninjas with a mysterious leader. A few issues later, the leader was revealed to be Firefly. This was supposed to be a surprise as the character was supposed to be dead at the time, but it was kind of ruined by the fact that Hasbro had just introduced a new action figure of the character.
  • New Super-Man #8 ended with the mysterious prototype "Super-Man Zero" talking to a mysterious figure who boasted that, without him, there would be no super heroes. That man? Ching Lung, the Yellow Peril Chinese stereotyped supervillain that was on the cover of the very first issue of Detective Comics.
  • In an example of the property itself being unexpected, Archie launched a reboot of their 1950s comic Cosmo the Merry Martian in 2018, renamed to Cosmo. With a staff that previously worked on Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man.
  • Dark Nights: Metal brings Dream of The Endless back into the main DC continuity.

    Fan Works 
  • An odd example from Calvin and Hobbes: The Series - the series finale "Black Rain" features none other than Slender Man as a major character. This has caused some rather mixed reactions from reviewers.
  • In Justice Society of Japan, given how Lelouch Lamperogue appears early on one would probably assume that Zero would be one of the first characters from that series to join the team. WROOOOONG. Shirley Fenette joins instead.
  • In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, outside the Original Characters, all characters introduced are from Kamen Rider series. Hence it comes as a surprise when Yumeria Moegi appears in A Month of Sundays, having been fired and in search of a job.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • The fic delights in this (something helped by the author appearing to have a near encyclopaedic knowledge of Marvel and other canons) but in particular, Jack O'Neill as the uncle of Carol Danvers? Harry befriending a young Jean-Paul Beaubier a.k.a. Northstar and Diana of Themyscira? Harry Dresden as a consultant for SHIELD, the mentor of Bruce Wayne and later, the apprentice of Wanda Maximoff?
    • Namor, while very briefly alluded to once or twice, is one of the biggest surprises of all in chapter 71.
    • Gambit's appearance and Dudley's reappearance as the Blob in chapter 8 of Ghosts of the Past were surprising to say the least.
    • And in chapter 9, no one saw Maddie Pryor being revealed as Jean's twin sister, Rachel Grey coming either.
  • Mega Man Recut has plans to include every Robot Master in the series, and many appearing Robot Masters were unexpected.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, nobody expected the Mega Crew's leader to be Tiesel Bonne.
  • Imperfect Metamorphosis including PC-98 characters isn't unexpected, as many Touhou fanfictions do that. What was unexpected was that nearly all of them show up eventually, including really obscure ones like Kotohime, Rika and Konngara (the former of which plays a major role). And it was really unexpected when Rin Satsuki turns out to be a main character, as she was never in the games in the first place.
  • The first episode of Fantasy Kaleidoscope looks to be a straight retelling of Perfect Cherry Blossom, until going Off the Rails at the end with the appearance of Sanae three games early.
  • In the Danny Phantom fanfic series, Facing the Future Series, many readers were surprised to see the return of the ghost half that Tucker wished for.
  • In My Immortal, when Ebony is trapped in the past, Marty McFly, or rather, morti mcfli, shows up out of nowhere to bring her back to the present.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, a Holocron loaded with the Force ghosts of canon characters pops up — It Makes Sense in Context, but nobody saw that coming. Especially since the whole point was that "A long time ago..." had been taken extremely literally to the point where known Star Wars was considered ancient history.
  • Weiss Reacts:
  • In one Harry Potter fanfic, Hermione reveals halfway through the story that she is actually adopted. Her real father is... Bruce Wayne. With no prior indication whatsoever that this was a crossover.
  • Moonstuck having Changelings show up was somewhat unexpected, as the comic had started before they were introduced in the show. The real shocker however was the Big Bad being Discord, as not only was he the first character from the show other than Luna to appear, he also completely destroyed the common assumptions about the timeline (pretty much everyone had assumed that the comic was a metaphor for Luna's Enemy Within struggle with Nightmare Moon, not Luna and Celestia finding the Elements of Harmony.
  • The Ranma ˝ fanfic Heian Conglin is basically a darker version of Jumanji where Ranma and Shampoo are the players. Early on, Tokyo is evacuated due the game's jungle occupying the whole city, Ranma, Shampoo and Happosai (a past player) are trying to win the game... And then Pantyose Taro shows up from nowhere to demand that Happosai changes his name.
  • Webwork has a couple of examples of this, as no one expected oneshot Villains of the Week like Nivor and Origami to show up.
  • The Paperinik New Adventures fan comic L'Ultima Terra has two:
    • When Scrooge decides to form a superhero squad he summons the members of the (now disbanded) Ultraheroes (that is, Paperinika, Super Goof, Red Bat, Cloverleaf, Iron Gus, and Paperinik himself)… And the Masked Whitewasher, an obscure and klutzy (yet surprisingly effective) superhero present in Italian Disney comics.
    • After bringing his nephews to Grandma Duck so they'd be out of the line of fire when he faces Antares, Donald makes a phone call to his sister Della so she'd know where they are in case he doesn't survive.
  • The Macross fanfic How Roid's Plan Could Have Backfired Horribly deals with the many ways Roid's master plan in Macross Delta could have backfired due one of the many holes in the plan working against him, mostly due to factors present in the series itself. Then chapter 6 has the Protodeviln show up just to wreck the Sigur Valens, and chapter 7 has Lynn Kaifun appear on Windermere and talk king Gramia into a more peaceful policy that also repairs Windermere's economy. Roid actually wonders how the latter one happened (Berger brought him there to have Kaifun talk Gramia into a new economic policy, as on the long term a relatively peaceful and economically powerful Windermere will give the Epsilon Foundation a much larger profit).
  • This Bites!: Who would've guessed that Gin, Apis, her dragon Lindy, Mr. 5, Ms. Valentine and Ms. Goldenweek would've ended up being part of the Barto Club?
    • Be honest. Did you really expect the CP9 opponent for Cross during the Enies Lobby Arc to be Hattori?
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has trainers and Pokemon appear in different places and roles than usual. One notable example is the appearance of Solidad during the Battle Dome Arc, given that she debuted many arcs later in canon and as a Pokemon Coordiantor, not trainer.
  • The Infinite Loops: Characters become Loopers based on their relationship with their respective loop's Anchor. Closer the relationship is, more likely the character Awakens and becomes a Looper. As a result, very rarely do the enemies of an Anchor become Loopers — it's considered an anomaly when it happens, unless the enemy in question wasn't particularly antagonistic and/or had strong morals. Also, as a Loop ages, its Awakening rate slows down significantly — the Original Seven's Loops, for example, are so old that they've gone millions of Loops without a new Looper. Then Billy happened. Billy managed the inconceivable: he made Gendo Ikari a Looper. On top of being from one of the seven oldest universes, Gendo was the most hated non-MLE in the multiverse next to Dolores Umbridge. Just about everyone had the "pleasure" of meeting his baseline self, and despise him with a passion. The Anchor of his Loop, his own son Shinji, is one of the few willing to give him a chance and even then he makes no bones about how much he still hates him.
  • This My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan video features a surprise cameo from a pony version of Gamzee Makara of all characters.
  • Double Rainboom was toted as a massive fan project for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic but no one upon no one was expecting it to be a crossover with The Powerpuff Girls.
  • Due to her status as a Sixth Ranger who appeared long after the story was created, Starlight Glimmer will be this in any Fallout: Equestria Recursive Fanfiction she appears in.
  • The author of The New Adventures of Invader Zim has a habit of bringing in minor oneshot characters from canon, to the surprise of most readers.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 

  • Used towards the end of the Animorphs series. Arbon and Loren, two minor characters who hadn't been seen in years and had little reason to return again, both made surprise reappearances. Weirder still, while Arbron's fate was neatly tied up in the epilogue, Loren wasn't addressed at all, making her a weird case of this character type meeting What Happened to the Mouse?
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had the now rather infamous scene in which Father Christmas pops up out of nowhere to give the Pevensie siblings their Christmas presents. Despite being set in a fantasy world, his appearance in Narnia is still a little jarring, and it's worth saying that he's never again seen or mentioned in any of the other books.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Watson (though not named, it's obviously them) appear in a segment of a Final Destination novel in Victorian Britain.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts likes to reintroduce minor characters or ones that have otherwise been Put on a Bus to play major roles much later. Sanian reappears in Sabbat Martyr, Sturnn reappears in Traitor General, and Agun Soric reappears in Only In Death. It also works in reverse for the author's other books set earlier in the timeline. Heldane and Lilith have minor roles in Eisenhorn and Ravenor respectively, both before they've achieved the rank of Inquisitor.
  • Though it's hardly a surprise these days, the original readers of Walter Scott's Ivanhoe would not have been expecting an appearance from Robin Hood, who spends the first half of the book under an assumed name (back then, "Locksley" would not have been immediately recognizable as one of his aliases).
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin has a tendency to take minor or antagonistic characters and make them point-of-view characters in later books.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Ahsoka: The book has seven sections with grey pages. In one of them, Obi-Wan Kenobi makes a surprise appearance meditating on Tatooine. Another shows Anakin Skywalker just before he first met Ahsoka.
    • Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away Volume 1: Aliens: The last story in the collection, "The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku": The treasure turns out to be Kix, the medic from the 501st Legion in The Clone Wars, who was cryo-frozen after finding out about Order 66 and was being taken to be interrogated by Count Dooku when the ship carrying him was attacked and crash-landed on a remote world. No one in or out of universe was expecting that.
  • Words of Radiance (second book of The Stormlight Archive): While having humans travel from Shardworld to Shardworld is a known event, having Nightblood, the Talking Weapon from Warbreaker do so is quite another thing.
  • In the fifth book of Venus Prime, Sir Randolph Mays, the insufferable Pompous Political Pundit who seems so hellbent upon exposing the Free Spirit, turns out to be William Laird, the leader of the Free Spirit.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Lots of unexpected characters pop up in the Omen of the Stars finale The Last Hope, such as Redtail, Raggedstar and Mosskit. But almost nobody was expecting Brambleberry's cameo appearance at the beginning where she is one of the first cats to ever successfully give Jayfeather a lecture.
    • When Dawn of the Clans, a prequel series dealing with the founding and early days of the five Clans was announced, lots of theories were made about appearances from the Clan Founders (Thunder, River Ripple, Wind Runner, Tall Shadow, and Clear Sky), original medicine cats (Cloudspots, Dapplepelt, Mothflight, and Pebbleheart), and a few other characters mentioned in the field guides (Gorsefur, Owleyes, Lightningtail, etc.). However, almost nobody predicted Graywing the Wise (a character whose sole mention in the series beforehand was being credited with creating a few WindClan battle strategies in Battles of the Clans) showing up, let alone his role as the (initial) main character of the arc. To a lesser extent, few expected Half Moon and Lion's Roar to appear in the arc, but they ended up being supporting characters in The Sun Trail.
    • The ninth Super Edition. Usually Super Editions star major characters, and are always about leaders or medicine cats. The ninth Super Edition was revealed to be Hawkwing's Journey, focusing on a cat nobody had ever heard of. It turned out later that he had previously appeared in a novella, Ravenpaw's Farewell, as a SkyClan apprentice who shows up one time and speaks one word.
  • The Whoniverse book Time Lord Fairy Tales pulls this off twice by springing a surprise character on the reader well after a story is underway and the protagonists' plight has been established; moreover, they go on to play supporting roles in the action, albeit important ones. In "Helena and the Beast", it's the Twelfth Doctor; in "The Grief Collector", it's the Tenth. Also, while many familiar Whoniverse villains turn up in these Twice Told Tales, the presence of The Nimon, from one of the classic series' campiest serials in "Jack and the Wormhole" will likely surprise those who don't remember their televised appearance and recognize the new story's similar setup.

  • Large-scale tours and festivals are bound to have this. Obviously everyone will know the headlining act, but when an unsigned band makes the line-up, people tend to scratch their heads (especially if they play the main-stage). For instance, Download Fest 2011, main stage with the likes of Def Leppard, System of a Down, Linkin Park and... The Pretty Reckless?
    • One of the strangest examples has to be British politician Jeremy Corbyn (sometimes considered Britain's answer to Bernie Sanders) showing up at a small festival in Merseyside headlined by The Libertines to give a short speech...and getting a huge cheer from the crowd!
  • Mass-artist compilations fall into this from time to time.
  • In a media crossover-example, Rhythm Games probably get this sort of reaction when they announce the new setlist for their next title, such as with Rock Band 3 ("The Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John and... Phoenix?"note ).
  • One such example is Just Dance, in which Top 40 tunes by artists such as Katy Perry, One Direction and Nicki Minaj co-exist alongside the likes of the Tetris theme, the William Tell Overture, and the Hatsune Miku cover of Ievan Polkka.
  • Rapper B.o.B. often has this with his featured artists, which have included Hayley Williams of Paramore, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, and Taylor Swift.
  • Kanye West's albums usually have at least one.
    • The College Dropout had Jamie Foxx, poet J.Ivy and was introduced by Bernie Mac (playing Kanye's high school principal).
    • Late Registration had both Mac and Foxx, but also included Lupe Fiasco (his appearance on "Touch the Sky" was his mainstream breakthrough), Adam Levine of Maroon 5, and, perhaps most surprisingly, given Kanye's mentor and boss Jay-Z was feuding with him at the time, Nas on "We Major".
    • Graduation had Chris Martin of Coldplay.
    • 808s and Heartbreak had two of Kanye's previous collaborators who few expected to fit with the album's style, namely rappers Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne.
    • My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had Elton John, La Roux, Fergie (of The Black Eyed Peas), Chris Rock, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver (although the last two are only unexpected because at the time few had heard of them or knew what to expect).
    • Watch the Throne had fucking Otis Redding! And Curtis Mayfield (both posthumously). And (although she is definitely still alive) Elly Jackson of La Roux and Frank Ocean of OFWGKTA fame.
    • Cruel Summer had most of its' supporting cast like this - R. Kelly, Ma$e, Marsha Ambrosius, Chief Keef...
    • Yeezus had King Louie and Assassin.
    • Kanye is also an Unexpected Character on other people's works. Few expected his collaborations with 30 Seconds to Mars, Katy Perry or Madonna.
  • Jay-Z and Linkin Park collaborated for the Collision Course mash-up. Few could've expected one of the biggest rappers in the world working with one of the biggest rock bands in the world.
  • Rapper A$AP Rocky's debut 'Long-Live-A$AP' featured Drake, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar and... Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine).
  • Childish Gambino's "Real Estate" suddenly features an ending rap outro by... Tina Fey.
  • Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad" featured Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester.
  • Drake's "All Me" includes an introduction by... Aziz Ansari.
  • Nine Inch Nails turned some heads when the guest list for Hesitation Marks included Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.
  • For some appearances in 1994 (including on Saturday Night Live) Tom Petty's drummer was Dave Grohl, previously of Nirvana. Since that time Grohl has collaborated with many musicians from Petty's generation but at the time it must have been an unexpected lineup.
  • Tech N9ne and Serj Tankian had a very unusual - if compelling - collaboration.
  • Within Temptation's album Hydra featues, of all people, Xzibit as a guest artist.
  • Queens of the Stone Age had Julian Casablancas guest on Era Vulgaris and Elton FREAKING John of all people appear on their newest album.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack, curated by Lorde, features mainly mordern female electronic/pop vocalists such as herself along with CHVRCHES, Charli XCX, Tove Lo, Ariana Grande, Bat For Lashes, Tinashe, HAIM, and... Grace Jones? Also rappers Q-Tip and Pusha-T appear in Stromae's "Meltdown" alongside Lorde and HAIM for an odd-yet-compelling collaboration. Also featured, perhaps most surprisingly of all given Lorde's feud with Diplo at the time, was Major Lazer featuring Ariana Grande with "All My Love".
  • Few could've expected Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar to ever collaborate on a song together, but indeed they did in former's song "Bad Blood".
  • GaMetal has remixed some pretty weird songs, for example, there's a medley of tunes from Bionic Commando and, even stranger, the Final Boss theme from McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure of all things. Fittingly, the latter one was done as an April Fools' Day special, but it is a real song.
  • The Lonely Island collaborates with a lot of artists, and some of them, like T-Pain or Jack Black, are pretty understandable. Then you get to ones like Michael Bolton, Linkin Park, Robyn, and, in The LEGO Movie, Tegan & Sara.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE's annual Royal Rumble pretty much always features Unexpected Characters in various forms. You're pretty much guaranteed to see one or two returning Legends making a one-off appearance (e.g. Honky Tonk Man in 2000, Diesel\Kevin Nash in 2011 and 2014), there are bound to be one or two main roster wrestlers making an unannounced return (e.g. John Cena in 2008, Edge in 2010), and every now and then there are entrants who are unexpected because they generally don't compete against the main male roster (e.g. Beth Phoenix in 2010, El Torito in 2014). Retired or semi-retired wrestlers serving as ringside commentators for the Rumble are sometimes unexpectedly entered into the match, usually resulting in their returning to the announce booth once they're eliminated (e.g. Jerry Lawler in 1996 and 2012, Michael Cole in 2012, JBL in 2014). One of the most unexpected (and bemoaned) characters in Rumble history was Drew Carey in the 2001 match. However, arguably the most shocking (or at the very least, surreal) entry, despite the countless rumors, reports, and even a statement from the TNA website all but outright telling us it would happen, was the debut of AJ Styles at the 2016 Royal Rumble in Orlando.
  • Intense Wrestling Inc was the only promotion operating in Macaela Mercedes's hometown of Cincinnati Ohio. It announced ahead of time that IWI would be booking talent from Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. So when she made her debut near the end of 2002 and was matched against La Tigresa, a wrestler she knew nothing about besides being from Puerto Rico, she was caught off guard. Even if they had mentioned wrestlers from Puerto Rico, Tigresa wouldn't have been on most people's radar stateside, given women's wrestling had virtually vanished from the island following her arrest four years prior for a smuggling case that was expected to keep her behind bars for decades.
  • 9/19/2016, WWE on ESPN live in Bristol Connecticut...with Adam Cole? Ring of Honor World Champion Adam Cole?

  • Occasionally the long-running Transformers toy franchise will have a release that up and surprises everyone:
    • One very surprising release was a character named Heatwave in the "Hero Mashers Line." Heatwave shares a name with a Transformers Rescue Bots character who was on shelves at the time, so the Hero Masher instead being directly based on an obscure, Collector's Club-only character was completely unexpected.
    • Less a "character" and more an "unexpected homage" but Rollbar's robot mode in the Transformers: Age of Extinction is very clearly based on X-Brawn from Transformers: Robots in Disguise, a character who has had no representation of any sort for over a decade.

    Web Original 
  • Viari's return in the second half of Acquisitions Incorporated season 8 came as a huge surprise to everyone except himself and Chris. Firstly, he was explicitly Put on a Bus and replaced by a new intern in the first game of the season. Secondly, there have never been more than four players at an AI table before (in fact, said table is physically designed for four players)—much less two interns at once. Lastly, the mid-season recap foreshadowed the return of Aeofel, the series' original intern, making no mention of Viari at all.
  • Death Battle occasionally brings in little known and unexpected characters to fight for their lives. Two of the more notable examples being Bucky O'Hare, coming from a fairly obscure comic and cartoon series from the 70's/90's and took on Fox McCloud, and Yang Xiao Long, who is from a web animation series running from 2013 which is growing in popularity but still fairly small and she took on Tifa Lockhart. Yang defeated her more popular opponent. Bucky wasn't so fortunate.
  • The Abridged Series My Little Pony: The Mentally Advanced Series shocked many fans by having the much anticipated Discord Killed Off for Real before the beginning of the show and replaced with Breezen, an obscure one shot villain from Generation 1 of the show. note 
  • Suburban Knights:
  • Ever After High is a children's series where the Spin-Offspring of various Fairy Tale characters go to high school together. The series however has a very loose interpretation of the term "fairy tale", leading to unusual characters popping up. Who expected characters from King Lear, a Shakespearean tragedy, to appear?note 

    Western Animation 
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!:
    • The addition of Spider-Man might have caught some viewers by surprise, since he rarely makes guest appearances in other Marvel characters' cartoons. (The previous time he had a speaking role in someone else's show happened over 30 years earlier, in Spider-Woman's animated series.) Additionally, none of the previews or trailers for the second season showed him, at least not before the season began. It seemed even more unexpected for Spidey to become a reserve Avenger.
    • From the same series, Wolverine. The X-Men had been hinted at, with several Superskrulls having characteristics of them, but seeing as the movie 'verses were separate, him appearing alongside Spidey in the same ep was pretty big. Despite Wolverine Publicity.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold gave A Day in the Limelight to many C-list DC heroes, some of whom had never had a televised appearance before. Things began getting weird in "Batman's Strangest Cases", when the Scooby-Doo gang show up, but the concept wasn't entirely new. Then Space Ghost got his own cameo. For reference, after DC acquired the rights to Space Ghost, he was only used in a single short-lived series in 2005, and the character is only otherwise known for his Self-Parody talk show.
  • DuckTales (2017): A combination Wham Shot and Wham Line from the end of the two-part premiere reveals that Della Duck is going to be important in this series.
    Dewey: ...Mom?!
  • In the animatic preview for the plans for Galactic Kids Next Door released on April 1, 2015, no one expected Lizzie, Numbuh One's former girlfriend, to appear, and certainly not as Numbuh Vine, the alien who sent out the warning about the G:KND's plans.
  • Amongst the characters seen on Justice League Action are Space Cabbie (an obscure Silver Age character who's Exactly What It Says on the Tin), John Constantine (a traditionally very much unkid-friendly character prone to swearing, chain smoking, and screwing people over), Swamp Thing (whose stories ever since Alan Moore's run are also very unkid-friendly and who Constantine spun off from), Outsiders foes the Nuclear Family, Carmine Falcone (though time travel was involved in that one, but still he's a foe from Batman's in-universe early years and a normal mafia don, which is normally outside of the League's greater purview), House of Mystery host Cain, Dex-Starr (a blue-furred house cat from Earth who's a member of the Red Lantern Corps), and Superman Red/Superman Blue (an old Silver Age Elseworlds story, a subsequent part of the infamous Electric Superman phase, and Superman Reborn, where Superman split off into two beings, one red and the other blue).
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Iroh and Zhao appear in the Spirit World in season two.
    • Book Four's greatest irony is that it is Zaheer who helps Korra to recover from her past traumas. Not to mention the unexpected return of Hiroshi Sato. Apparently, Book Four is full of Heel Face Turns.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Derpy Hooves appearing as Rainbow Dash's replacement in "Rainbow Falls". One of her previous appearances had sparked off a massive controversy and Internet Backdraft that resulted in the character being absent from season three and all the released episodes of season four up to that point, leaving most of the fanbase to assume that she had been removed from the show completely. Compounding the surprise is that aside from one or two extremely vague hints from the staff, none of the show's promotional materials so much as hinted that the character would be returning.
    • Cherry Jubilee of all ponies sits among the princesses and delegates in "Equestria Games".
    • The season 4 finale features Tirek, the Big Bad of the G1 TV special "Rescue at Midnight Castle", as the main antagonist. What makes him so unexpected is that Hasbro had lost the trademarks to many of their G1 characters (besides Applejack and Spike and some others), and that the showrunners had explicitly avoided using creatures that looked too human (besides that spin-off about humans).
    • Similarly, season 5 has an episode featuring the Smooze, of all creatures. Though unlike Tirek (who is, if anything, even more evil here than he was in the original), this version of the Smooze seems to be comparatively harmless.
  • Since Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars is presented as a Lower-Deck Episode of Star Wars: A New Hope, you probably be surprised to discover that there's a Darth Maul Expy in the cast. Especially when said character turns out to be Ferb, albeit being influenced by a Mirror Morality Machine.
  • An episode of OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes features guest appearances from characters from Captain Planet and the Planeteers, including Captain Planet himself, Kwame and Dr. Blight.
  • Samurai Jack: When season 5 premiered many people expected references back to previous seasons and the show delivers with the Scotsman, the Woolies, Da Samurai, and others returning, if only for a cameo. The most unexpected would probably be Demongo who was explicitly killed back in the original series.
  • Did anyone expect to see characters from the Hanna-Barbera Moby Dick cartoon, Dynomutt Dog Wonder, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw, The Funky Phantom and Jonny Quest show up in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated? Hell, the protagonists of the Moby Dick cartoon are said to be the children of characters from Sealab 2020!
  • In the Grand Finale of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Spidey went to an alternate universe where he met Gwen Stacy, who was unexpected because there was no appearance or even mention of any Gwen Stacy in that series until then, her role basically going to pre-Black Cat Felicia Hardy.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • Depa Billaba, former Jedi High Councilor, posthumously. Star Wars: The Clone Wars had completely ignored her note ; before that, the Star Wars Expanded Universe had depicted her as getting incapacitated early in the war, with her seat going to Obi-Wan Kenobi, so making her Kanan's mentor right until Order 66 was rather surprising.
    • Obi-Wan Kenobi's holocron cameo in "Spark of Rebellion" wasn't expected.
    • Why hello there, Luminara Unduli.
      • Up until the SDCC 2014 trailer for the show, it had been presumed that she had died along with all the other Jedi with the advent of Order 66, especially considering that she was on Kashyyyk with Yoda, and that there was no indication that she had escaped from the other Clone Troopers. The fact that she was simply taken prisoner instead of simply being executed is also surprising.
      • This is played with, in that Luminara is Dead All Along and her being "alive" was simply a trap set by the Grand Inquisitor.
    • Darth Vader was expected to show up at one point — that his appearance in the series was slated to happen less than a month after the series premiere threw people off-guard. Bonus unexpected points should be added by being voiced by James Earl Jones, when Matt Sloan seems to be the go-to guy for Darth Vader voices in other official Star Wars media.
    • Yoda's appearance (or more accurately, his voice) in "Path of the Jedi" was also unexpected, as Yoda was isolating himself on Dagobah at the time. Similar to Darth Vader above, being voiced by Frank Oz was even more unexpected, as Tom Kane is usually the go-to-guy for a Yoda voice outside the films, including Lucasfilm Animation's previous project, The Clone Wars.
    • Lando makes an appearance in "Idiot's Array", where he ropes the Ghost crew into his schemes after winning Chopper in a game of Sabacc.
    • Tarkin shows up in "Call to Action", and things get serious real quick.
    • While the Clone Troopers were expected to show up eventually, many were surprised that Gregor — who only appeared once in the series and was left in a situation where he was hopelessly outnumbered and believed to have died — was among them.
    • In the second trailer, an "Old Master" offers to help Ezra. His identity? Darth Maul!
    • And then there's the Season 3 trailer, where possibly one of the most hyped characters ever appears: Grand Admiral Thrawn.
    • General Kalani appearing in "The Last Battle", as many assumed he (actually a look-a-like, due to a crediting error in his unnamed appearances in the Crystal Crisis arc of The Clone Wars) died and was a one-shot villain.
    • Gar Saxon from Son of Dathomir apparently survived the Siege of Mandalore and became a major Imperial antagonist to Sabine.
    • The Season 4 trailer introduced Thrawn's Noghri bodyguard Rukh, also from Legends, who was assumed to have been Adapted Out due to his name being used as the Override Command for Thrawn's sparring droids from "Through Imperial Eyes".
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) has its interpretation of Lord Dregg, who replaced the Shredder as the main antagonist in the last two seasons of the 1987 show. Since not many fans were fond of Dregg, it is surprising that the people behind the Nickelodeon series would even think of bringing him back.
  • Steven Universe:
  • When Total Drama Daycare was announced as a Spin-Off for the Total Drama series, several fan-favourites were confirmed to appear, such as Owen, Duncan, Courtney... and Jude from 6teen, a completely different show that had already ended years before and had little connection to Total Drama aside from both shows being created by Teletoon.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode For Your Ice Only, the boys play a game of Hockey Z-9 and the other players are; Isabella, Buford, Baljeet and Django, who hasn't been anything more then a cameo since Season 1

Alternative Title(s): The Unexpected